What does it mean to be healthy? How to live a healthy lifestyle? More importantly, how do you have important conversations with your students surrounding responsible choices? Because what good is just knowing about living a healthy lifestyle, if the choices we make aren’t the best for us?As adults, we often have difficulties with choosing between what we want and what we should have. I can only imagine how much more difficult it is for our students to make those decisions. With their brains so young and influential--because they are still developing!--it would be easy for them to pick up bad habits if they don’t have information that helps them to make responsible decisions. With peer pressure playing a huge role in our students’ decision making, it is crucial to provide them with all the necessary information possible that allows them to come to their own conclusions on the best choices for them and their lifestyle. Having these conversations can be tricky — some students, especially preteens, might think they already know everything about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. That’s why I’ve found that having a conversation based strictly on facts allows students to be more receptive to responsible choice making.When holding conversations about responsible choices with preteens, I’ve found that they are quite open to the different possibilities and actually can support their decisions with facts. Presenting resources that are relevant is important too. Did you know that we are in the final week of April's Alcohol Responsibility Month? Providing students with information about underage drinking and how it affects them is a crucial step in helping them make wise decisions, and this is the perfect time to start these conversations--and then continue them throughout the year! When it comes to talking about how underage drinking affects kids’ developing brains, ignorance is not blissful!I am not an expert on the effects of alcohol on developing brains. Lucky for me, we have a great resource in Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don’t Mix. I have been using Ask, Listen, Learn — specifically their videos and teacher materials (including free lesson plans!)— to help my students learn facts about the different parts of their brain, what alcohol does to each part of the brain, and how that affects them. When it’s time for an Ask, Listen, Learn lesson, we take a class vote on which two short videos we will watch. After each video, we complete the comprehension questions. What my students really like about the videos is that it doesn’t tell them what to do — it simply encourages them to say NO to underage drinking--using science, not scare tactics or “because I say so” language. As a teacher, I know how some students respond when you tell them not to do something — they go ahead and do it just because you told them not to do it. Having a conversation with your students surrounding responsible choices is all about providing them with all the information they’ll need to make a well-informed decision. Telling students to not do something might not yield the same results. So, not only does Ask, Listen, Learn have great resources, they provide the information in a non-judgmental way that allows our students to learn about the effects of underage drinking without making the decisions for them.
Tim Jones is a sixth grade teacher at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School in Salinas, CA. This is his fifth year participating in Classroom Champions. This year, his classroom mentor is Markeith Price, a US Paralympian in Track and Field.